Now, we're certainly not what you'd call no-screen parents. We try to limit our kids' screen time as much as possible, but sometimes the iPad or phone or TV can save the day and/or our sanity. Everyone manages their kids' screen time differently (none whatsoever, only on weekends or after homework and dinner, as a reward for good behavior, etc), but most parents will agree that there are better ways for our kids to spend their leisure time. Playing board games, reading, drawing, or playing outside are all great options, and all important for child development. This the really the first generation that is growing up on screens, so to speak, so the science is still undecided on how too much screen time can impact a child's development. But a recent study suggests that there's one thing parents should avoid doing when it comes to screen time for their kids.
Researchers out of the University of Montreal say that putting a TV in your preschool child's bedroom can impact their long-term well-being. Linda Pagani is a professor at UdeM's School of Psycho-Education. She and her team studied Canadian birth cohort data of 1,859 Quebec children born between spring 1997 and spring 1998. The health of children in the study was analyzed again when they turned 13. Independent examiners measure body mass index, diet, emotional stress, and social interactions. These measures are all considered good indicators of physical and mental health later in life, once the kids reach adulthood.
What the researchers found was troubling. Kids in the study who had a TV in their room at the age of 4 increased the chances that the child would go on to have significantly higher body mass index, poor eating habits, lower sociability levels, and higher levels of emotional stress and distress. Additionally, kids who had a TV in their bedroom at age 4 were more likely to exhibit depressive symptoms, physical aggression, and victimization, regardless of whether or not they were predisposed to these behaviors because of socioeconomic or family factors.
Kids who spent too much time in their rooms watching TV were negatively impacted as they grew up, and those impacts were evident well into adolescence. Regardless of where you fall on the screen time spectrum, this study should act as a warning against letting your kids have a TV in their room.